Late summer crappies
Crappies are an interesting fish. In mid and late summer they can seemingly disappear from a body of water that was infested with them just a few weeks earlier.
They have a unique appearance: It’s hard to mistake a crappie for a different type of fish. Walleyes look much like sauger, northern pike can be mistaken for a pickerel or sometimes even a musky, and largemouth and smallmouth bass look similar also. But crappies, they look like crappies.
And crappies are outstanding on the table. Keep enough for a meal if you want, put the rest back.
Crappies are crepuscular. This means that they are usually most active during low-light periods: Early and late in the day.
Depending on where you’re fishing, there are three very good ways to catch crappies right now. Starting off, the favorite technique of many crappie-catchers is to cast a light jig to a deep weedline or dock. Crappies like the cover that each provide and they also like that baitfish will hang around the same areas. Crappies will suspend around these areas and grab a baitfish or your jig when they get hungry. In some places, homeowners will put brush piles near their dock to attract baitfish and crappies. In some lakes this is permitted, in many it’s not.
Another technique that works well in these same areas is to rig your jig under a slip-bobber. There’s something about watching a bobber float across the surface, then slowly go down that’s almost magical. Experiment with how far your bobber is set above the jig. At times the fish like the bait close to the surface, especially when there’s less light penetration. Sometimes they want it deeper, like when it’s brighter out.
Last technique. In some lakes, crappies will move into deep water and spend much of the rest of the year there. They’ll hang out closer to the bottom in deep water. If you watch your sonar carefully, you’ll be able to see the crappies holding near deep water points or even in the basin of the lake. Sometimes you’ll see fish that you believe are crappies on the sonar and they are actually walleyes. You’ll probably catch a couple of the walleyes, and that’s not a bad thing, before you realize they’re not crappies. In this deep water an 1/8th ounce jig fished on 4 or 6 pound line will be most productive. Crappies in Kabetogama Lake in northern Minnesota behave this way this time of year and all fall. Kab is an underrated crappie lake.
In all three of these techniques we’re using jigs, either 1/16th or 1/8th ounce, maybe a 1/32nd ouncer with a splitshot under the bobber. When I got serious about crappies 35 years ago, a minnow was always on my jig. Now, it rarely is. Crappie plastics have become so good there hardly is ever a time when a minnow is better. Maybe under the slip-bobber sometimes. Plastic offers more colors, shapes, and durability. Mr. Crappie’s Grubs, Crappie Thunder, and Slabalicous plastics are outstanding. I usually start with brighter colors and go more natural if the crappies aren’t aggressive.
Crappies are nick-named Paper-Mouth because of their somewhat fragile mouth. For that reason, go with a lighter action, longer rod. This will prevent missed fish due to too hard hooksets. A 7′ Lew’s Speed Stick in medium light would be a very nice crappie rod and will double as a walleye jig rod.
Crappie are fun to catch and can be willing biters. If you keep these ideas in mind, you’ll be able to catch’em for the next couple of months.